BWW Reviews: DURANG DURANG Goes Out with a Bang at Post5 Theatre
I am one of those people who is annoyingly early for everything. If a show starts at 7:30, I'm usually parking my car (or getting off the Max) at 6:45 and standing around in the lobby irritating the theatre staff until the house opens. I can't help it. I'm always scared I'm going to miss something. So it should be taken seriously when I tell you to arrive about an hour late for Post5's production of Durang Durang.
It's not their fault. Durang Durang is a collection of six short pieces by Christopher Durang, and the three that make up the first half of the evening are just plain dull, no matter how much energy and wit the cast and crew try to put into them. Mrs. Sorken is a monologue for a middle-aged woman about the theatre, and even casting the role with a man in a dress doesn't make it funny. For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls is a parody of The Glass Menagerie with the genders switched, while A Stye in the Eye makes fun of Sam Shepard's work, and neither one acheives the quality of a mediocre Saturday Night Live sketch - let alone the grand heights of The Carol Burnett Show's movie parodies.
However, in the second half, when Durang goes off on his own, the evening soars. Nina in the Morning is an absurd take on the life of a debauched socialite, with a suave narrator, servants right out of Rocky Horror, and a blast of an ending. Wanda's Visit involves a nice couple whose lives are disrupted by an old high-school friend who gives new meaning to the word "obnoxious." And Business Lunch at the Russian Tearoom is the story of a playwright named Christopher who is tempted by Hollywood. All three are witty, absurd, hilarious, and worth the price of admission on their own.
Director Sam Dinkowitz does great work with the cast of six. They run in and out of doors, entering the playing area from all directions, and Dinkowitz mostly keeps them from going over the top. The shouting and posing in the Wiliams and Shepard parodies can't be helped, I suppose, but once the second half begins the acting becomes more subtle and the actors relax; they're not trying to imitate anything, they're creating characters we haven't seen before, and they can add their own touches to the roles.
All six cast members are wonderful. Kelly Godell is best as the pushy, casually crude Wanda and the English-accented movie producer. Heath Koerschgen does amazing work as Wanda's victim and Nina's manservant. Pat Janowski gets every laugh as the blase Nina, and even manages to hold stage as the mother in the Williams piece. Phillip Berns goes all over the place as all three of Nina's children, a pair of crazy waiters, and a gay rabbi, and he too manages to be funny as the disabled son in the Williams piece.
Keith Cable has two of the hardest assignments; he's stuck with the opening monologue, which made me think of Dana Carvey's Church Lady; Cable's doing his best but the piece is just not funny. He comes back as Nina's narrator, however, and manages to be droll, sexy, and sarcastic all at once. But the best work comes from Post5 veteran Jessica Tidd, who made me think of Joan Cusack in Wanda's Visit, all sublimated anger and low-key sarcasm; she also contributed a wordless cameo as another of Nina's servants, and got huge laughs as a foul-mouthed waitress in the finale.
Durang Durang is half of a wonderful evening. I must admit that the audience around me laughed uproariously at all six pieces, so perhaps you would enjoy the first act too. The second act alone is worth seeing. But don't rush through dinner.